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AllSeen Alliance adopts open-source framework for the Internet of Things

The Linux Foundation will be guiding consumer electronic players to one, universally compatible system of the Internet of Things.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The Linux Foundation, the non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux, continued to spread its philosophy of collaborative development by announcing the formation of the AllSeen Alliance, the broadest industry consortium to date to advance adoption and interoperability in the “Internet of Everything” in homes and industry.


The Internet of Everything is based on the idea that devices, objects and systems can be connected in simple, transparent ways to enable seamless sharing of information with coordinated and intelligent operations across all of them. If that sounds like science-fiction, think again. IDC predicts that by 2020 we'll have more than 212-billion devices connected in a market worth more than 8.9 trillion dollars.

Yes, IDC said, trillion, not billion.

That presumes, of course, that all these devices — your furnance, lights, TVs, etc. — can actually talk with each other. That's where the AllSeen Alliance comes in. Since no single company can accomplish that level of interoperability, Qualcomm Innovation Center (QiC), a Qualcomm subsidiary, is donating its AllJoyn open-source project to be the foundation for a universal Internet of Everything.

AllJoyn is meant to let developers create peer-to-peer and multi-screen experiences by enabling apps to connect, control and share resources with nearby apps and devices via its software development framework. AllJoyn is made up of an open, secure and universal framework and core set of services that enable interoperability among nearby devices, products and applications across platforms and operating systems.

It's important to note that while AllJoyn needs networking to work, it's not a networking protocol, it's meant to ride on top of the network stack. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G, Ethernet, whatever, AllJoyn will run on whatever network your home or office uses.

Nor, is it operating system dependant. AllJoyn is written in  C++, and provides multiple language bindings and complete implementations across various operating systems and chipsets. For example, AllJoyin already includes software development kits (SDK)s for Android, iOS, Mac OS X, and Windows RT. 

In the past, companies might have tried to create a standard or create their own proprietary software stack to make devices work with each other. AllSeen Alliance has taken the open-source tack to reach its goal instead.

As Jim Zemlin, The Linux Foundation's executive director said, "There have been attempts to solve this interoperability challenge the old-fashioned way. Some vendors have tried to corner the market with proprietary solutions — a crippling contradiction when the basic requirement of the Internet of Everything is interoperability across vendors and brands. No one wants to have one remote or app for the lights, another for the entertainment center, and so on. At the same time, standards-setting initiatives have cropped up but they're inefficient when, say, every company that makes a tiny light switch needs to implement a 500-page technical spec."

Therefore, Zemlin continued, "The answer here is clear: Open source is the ideal, neutral staging area for collaboration that can provide the interoperability layer needed to make the Internet of Everything a reality. When everyone jointly develops and uses the same freely available code, companies can develop innovative services on top of it and get them to market faster. This is why the majority of the consumer electronics industry, the high-performance computer industry, the world’s stock exchanges, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter and every Android device rely on the Linux kernel. Why would all those companies try and produce non-differentiating infrastructure software that requires a development pace of 10,000 lines of code a day? Shared development is the way of addressing complex technology and business opportunities."

Qualcomm senior vice-president Rob Chandhok agreed. He sees the AllSeen Alliance using AllJoyn's code the same way Web browsing companies have used the WebKit browser rendering engine: "Here's the code, we'll work on this together, and this we'll solve the huge interoperability problem without wasting time by having everybody reinventing the wheel over and over."

The burgeoning Internet of Everything industry has agreed with Zemlin. AllSeen Alliance's founding members include LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Sharp, Silicon Image and TP-LINK.

This isn't just lip-service support. LG has already said that all its 2014 LG Smart TV models will come preloaded with AllJoyn and that 2013 and 2012 Smart TVs' firmware will be upgraded to support it over time. Other vendors will be showing products at the CES show in Las Vegas in January 2014.

Ready or not, all your consumer electronics are going to be working together before the decade's end. And, if AllSeen is successful, they'll all work together seamlessly instead of in a hodgepodge quilt of incompatible technologies.

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